Chris Folkerts revolutionized the concentrate market by developing a line of personal, portable vaporizers that introduced the world to digitized cannabis consumption.
His company, Grenco Science, launched their flagship product, the G Pen, in 2012.
Since then, Grenco Science has become an industry byword for quality and innovation. Their family of products has now been extended to include the Gio, Pro, Elite, and the recently debuted Nova.
We spoke with Folkerts about the company’s culture, building a lifestyle-tech brand, and being an industry innovator.
From the Analog into the Digital Era
Chris Folkerts has advocated for cannabis for more than 24 years. The Belleville, Illinois native was first introduced to the plant when he was 13 years old.
Cannabis appealed to him right away. “It was something that spoke to me. When I started to use it, it was understood as a drug, then as a medicine,” he explained, before eventually using it recreationally.
Folkerts attributes the medical cannabis movement for breaking the stigma and challenging stereotypes. But, it’s safe to say that he also played an important part in revolutionizing the industry too — by blending cutting edge technology with cannabis consumption he brought it into the modern era.
Folkerts began his career as a concert promoter, touring the country and managed hip-hop and rock bands. His career in the music industry brought him to California in 2009.
Three years later, he launched G Pen, becoming one of the first vaporizer companies to develop a vape for cannabis concentrates.
The inspiration for the device came from e-cigarettes, Folkerts explained.
The first e-cig he saw, he recalls, had cotton as a wick. “While it worked, it wasn’t effective in getting users high,” Folkerts said. He also noticed that most devices, at the time, did not come with refills. That was his “aha!” moment.
Folkerts wanted to create the vape pen because he “saw the power behind it and converted it from analog to digital, more or less.”
From there he developed the G Pen, which hit the California market in 2012. In doing so, the brand became synonymous for vape pens, much like Kleenex became a generic term for tissues. Some even credit the brand for making vape pens famous.
An Instrument for Acceptance
The company was undoubtedly instrumental in taking the stigma about off concentrates. Vapes in general, Folkerts asserts, help take away the stigma of smoking cannabis because there’s a big difference between heat combustion and lighting something with a lighter.
The G Pen introduced new technology and a new way of consuming cannabis. Grenco Science is recognized as a pioneer of the Californian concentrate market for that reason.
Having a device that’s portable, and discreet all in one system has, Folkerts said, “been very instrumental in building acceptance.”
The G Pen’s sleek designs and ease of use make it a popular choice among consumers.
“It’s functional and ergonomic,” he said, “it feels good in the hand.”
G Pen products are recognized for their superior form and function. However, the brand isn’t just focused on product innovation; but also, making vaping a more meaningful experience.
“We’ve always considered ourselves a lifestyle-tech brand,” Folkerts said.
To achieve this, Folkerts pulls on his experience in the music industry to build partnerships with musicians, athletes, and artists. G Pen brand ambassadors include Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, and Berner.
The company also established “the Charity Series; a collection of products tied to nonprofit organizations wherein a portion of net proceeds are donated with each purchase; and the Artist Series, an installment of collaborations with industry-leading artists and brand ambassadors.”
“We’ve done everything from a collaboration with Burton Snowboards, and the artist Phil Frost, [and having a] Coachella party,” he added, which was attended by School Boy Q, Action Bronson, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
“It’s all about creating that [interactive] component,” he added.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
The music and cannabis industries have plenty of parallels, Folkerts said. Much like putting on a concert or event, “There’s an army of people that make things happen […].”
“It’s passion, people’s livelihoods, [and it’s about the] work ethic,” he added.
The staff — most of which have been with him since founding the company seven years ago — are all “willing to roll up their sleeves and do anything that’s needed of them. There’s no ‘that’s not my job attitude’.”
He credits his team and company culture for the success of Grenco Science. His leadership style very much reflects that; “without the team, its just my ideas.”
With that success has also come challenges. Some of those hiccups include issues scaling to size, ordering, misprints, and failed partnerships, Folkerts described — but he and the Grenco Science team see those as learning opportunities.
“Having a company that’s growing too fast, and a team that’s not experienced in scaling [….] you can find yourself behind a lightning bolt,” he explained. What matters is adaptability, and the willingness to learn, he added.
“We are fortunate to surround ourselves with a team that took us from to being a label to becoming a brand.”
The company remains committed to developing cutting edge technology, said Folkerts, alluding to the introduction of new technology later this year.
Michael Trzecieski: The ‘World’s Coolest Bong’ Design Director
Every now and then, a game-changing product comes along that tempts us to throw all other gadgets and glass out the window. The Stüdenglass gravity bong is one such product. Chances are you know of the bong through the viral video showing contemporary stoner icon Seth Rogen gripped by a coughing fit after one hit — cementing the bong’s place in counterculture legend.
The original product was conceived by ex-Apple alumni Tracey Huston, who filed the patent back in 2016. Recently, Stüdenglass was acquired by one of the most innovative — and coolest — cannabis companies, Grenco Science. Shortly after, Michael Trzecieski, founder of Vapium and tech-designer extraordinaire, took up the challenge of refining the state-of-the-art mounted gravity bong for top-shelf aficionados.
Cannabis Aficionado caught up with Trzecieski to talk about the synergies between weed and tech, how the Stüdenglass has improved, and, of course, that Seth Rogen video.
Cannabis Aficionado: Tell us about your journey through entrepreneurship and how you found your way to cannabis.
Michael Trzecieski: Growing up in Canada has afforded me many opportunities but there are two that have been the most formative — the first was becoming a Roboticist and the second was to witness and experience a country who showed true compassion toward cannabis as medicine. I was allowed to see the power of the plant without shame or indignity.
My journey as a Roboticist started in fibre optics, engineering micro-robotic toys. At the same time, Canada was making enormous strides towards full legalization. The timing, coupled with my desire to support the medical cannabis consumer, allowed me to shift my focus and passion — making a different kind of robot to support the people who needed it most. With this goal in mind, I took my years of experience in safety and controls (from toys being so heavily regulated) and applied this to making our first haptic vaporizer back in 2012.
Can you share your thoughts around the synergy between tech and cannabis?
Tech allows users to titrate their cannabis experience so they can choose to consume at various levels. Traditional methods of consumption are not always effective for all patients, and innovation is paramount for harm reduction and efficiencies. It is essential to have clean air intake, temperature stabilization. Temperature stabilization allows the vaporizing device to toast the leaf material instead of combusint it using a closed-loop temperature stabilization feedback system. At lower temperatures consumers can experience improved terpene profiles while at higher temperatures they may enjoy stronger effects.
What were the things you set out to achieve when designing the Stündenglass gravity bong?
The new Stündenglass glass gravity bong was designed for aesthetics, precision machining and cleaner vapor. We also wanted to provide a more comfortable user experience. Through the kinetic motion activation, vapours are sucked into an upper chamber and as water rushes from the upper chamber to lower chamber, the vapor percolates through the flowing water stream and offers vapour filtration as well as vapor cooling.
Tell us about the materials and why you chose them.
The materials chosen for the Stündenglass were predominantly glass and metal.
Glass offers a supreme taste, it is easy to clean, and it does not attract vapor and oil particles.
Stainless steel was also chosen as one of the core elements in the device because of its cleanliness as well as its ability to be precision-machined and for its high wearability in the valve portion of the device.
Anodized aluminium was also utilized for its durability and longevity.
What’s your favorite thing about the Stündenglass gravity bong?
It’s magical. The kinetic motion activation allows the device to both suck vapour as well as expel vapor at the same time, and provides percolation and water vapor filtration. There are also many magnetic components because magnets are also kind of magical.
Stündenglass was recently acquired by Grenco Science. Can you tell us details of how this exciting acquisition came about?
We first got to know Tracey Huston, and it was immediately apparent that there was a synergy between the brands, with a shared goal of innovation and improving upon the user experience. We recognized the ingenuity behind Stündenglass and understood how we could help by bringing this product into Grenco Science’s global expansion plan. From there it was a natural next step to bring Stündenglass into the Grenco Science umbrella.
How has the device evolved since its initial prototype?
The initial prototype was a very functional and utilitarian type unit. The design was since improved for its aesthetics, robustness, as well as the modularity. Furthermore, the percolation was an added feature and an improvement over the first model.
Subsequent models have allowed for modularity. The modules may be removed and taken apart, cleaned and accessorized, as well as replaced with other future potential attachments and improvements. A wall mount was also provided.
The viral video of Seth Rogen with his Stündenglass put the gravity bong on the wish-list of every aficionado, cementing its place in cannabis culture legend. How did it come about?
It was very organic. An early prototype was given to someone in Seth Rogen’s family, who then gave it to him. It was his own idea to create the video and share the experience online.
What tech trends do you predict for the cannabis industry over the next five years?
The bigger tech trends in the cannabis industry include dosing and data. Many customers want to be able to monitor their dosages as well as have data associated with their consumption, like what a Fitbit tracker does for fitness. This will allow producers to develop more meaningful formulations for their consumers as the data and dosing science evolves.
How do your products help shift the stigma about cannabis?
Our products help the ship the stigma on cannabis by bringing technology to the industry. This tech comes in the form of improved heating technologies, industrial design, safer material choices and temperature stabilized heating control loops.
In your opinion, what’s the most important thing that needs to be addressed when talking about cannabis?
That cannabis is a medicine. We are only beginning to uncover its real potential as legalization around the world grows.
How do you think the cannabis industry as a whole can be better?
Accountability. One of the major issues in the industry at the moment is a lack of accountability and a lack of safety and testing standards. There are still some operators that are looking to make a quick buck from unassuming consumers, and last year’s vape crisis was a direct result of that.
The cannabis industry is just in its beginning stages and needs to evolve. With this evolution there will be added accountability and more rules and regulations to ensure it’s safer for all.
What do you wish you knew when you started out in cannabis entrepreneurship?
I wish I knew that it was not going to be easy, and this holds true for any entrepreneurship. Finding the right people and putting together the right team is really important. It took us years to finally find the right partners and the right people to work with. This allowed us to evolve from a smaller operation to a larger entity.
Finally, what are three things it takes to be a cannabis entrepreneur?
I would say the first thing is creativity. You have to be full of ideas; you have to understand how to change the game; and how to make a difference, not just fit in. As the industry quickly evolves with ever changing rules and regulations, you need to keep your head in the game. It’s an industry for sharp minded entrepreneurs who know they can make a difference.
You’ve got to be tenacious, never take no for an answer, and keep on pushing for what you want to achieve going forward. No one’s going to do it for you. You need to drive your creativity home to others and have them believe in you.
You need to show up and be present in order to know what the industry is about. You need to be present at trade shows, events and gatherings where you can meet the right people in order to develop the right relationships.
Follow Michael Trzecieski on Linkedin.
Bill Shevlin: Cultivating Carbon-Neutral Cannabis at 3 Bros Grow
It’s no secret that indoor cannabis cultivation techniques leave a substantial carbon footprint. The immense amounts of water and energy required will make the model unsustainable if it continues unchallenged. Fortunately, by implementing cutting-edge technology and the best production practices, it is possible to grow top-shelf cannabis in a way that’s sustainable for both businesses and the environment. That’s the vision of 3 Bros Grow, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Santa Cruz, California, dedicated to growing the very best cannabis using environmentally friendly processes.
Cannabis Aficionado spoke to CEO Bill Shevlin about the 3 Bros Grow mission, their revolutionary cultivation practices and the importance of giving back to the community.
Cannabis Aficionado: Tell us about your journey through entrepreneurship and how you found your way to cannabis.
Bill Shevlin: I grew up in the Santa Cruz area, and if you grew up in this part of the country, cannabis was always around. When I was in high school, I took an outdoor ed program and learned how to read topography maps. My friends and I picked some locations that were back in the woods, in the canyons, planted there and grew. After school, I ended up getting into real estate development and management. For the last 15 years, I have advised technology and vertical ag companies while working in large-scale commercial construction and renewable energy.
In 2017, I started looking at energy usage in the cannabis and hemp space, as I knew cannabis was super energy-intensive. I worked with a few different companies in the industry — some were small, some were large — and I saw all sorts of issues from the infrastructure requirements but also on the corporate side. Due to my background in vertical ag, I knew you could cultivate and deliver food crops into local markets sustainably. I knew there was value in being able to do the same thing in cannabis.
I met the founders of 3 Bros Grow — Tyler Smith, ‘CEBrO’; Mark Taylor, COO, and Russell Smith, CMO — at the end of 2019, and formally joined them as CEO in January of 2020. They have a really cool mission to be a sustainable company from day one and had some interesting things they were doing.
Tell me more about the 3 Bros Grow mission.
We believe it is our responsibility to offer only the highest quality cannabis products at an approachable price and in a sustainable manner. Cannabis is medicine, but we plan to use it to heal more than just people. From climate-positive business practices to community care initiatives, we strive to assist in the healing of our planet. Unfortunately, the cannabis industry is far from green. There is a lot of waste and a lot of pollution. 3 Bros is committed to leaving this planet more beautiful than when we arrived and vow to put forward our greatest effort in sustainable and community-centred operations. That’s where my background in renewable energy comes into play.
Why is creating a zero-carbon footprint cultivation model so important to 3 Bros Grow?
From day one, 3 Bros Grow has been about sustainability — the founders were pushing the sustainability message in cannabis even before I was around. They grew up in the surf industry and were professional surfers, so they’re very conscious of the environment. When I joined, it was really because we were having conversations around using renewable energy and sustainable energy for indoor cannabis, which is really energy-intensive. Sustainability has always been part of the core culture of 3 Bros Grow. We’re doing some really cutting-edge stuff around sustainability.
What are the sustainable ‘green’ initiatives at your new facility?
We’re creating a climate-positive impact at our revolutionary new vertically integrated facility in Santa Cruz. It allows us to offer truly green practices across cultivation, manufacturing, processing, and distribution.
Our COO, Mark, figured out a way to not use any outside water in his cultivation operations. The 3 Bros proprietary systems and technologies don’t use any outside water for cultivation, which creates a lower cost of operation, and it also has a positive impact on the environment. If you look at what the industry standards are, for water there is, unfortunately, a lot of waste. It’s a problem that needs to be fixed, and we are fixing it.
We’re also implementing a carbon-negative microgrid that generates power onsite, allowing us to lower the cost of operation, and create a climate-positive impact. Again, cannabis is an energy-intensive industry. So even though a lot of people associate it with being “natural” and “clean,” the reality is that there are a lot of fossil fuels that are used to grow most commercially available cannabis.
Thirdly, using our proprietary Direct Air Capture technology allows us to sequester CO2 in our cultivation and manufacturing processes, which we’ll inject back into our grow environment. So, we’re actually pulling CO2 out of the air at a larger scale than we normally would, because we’re not supplementing with standard C02. We’re just supplementing with CO2 that we’ve captured from the air.
The facility is being brought online in phases and will have a cultivation capacity of 10,000 pounds of top-shelf indoor cannabis. The interesting thing is that our environmental impact is positive, costs of operations are lower and our efficiencies are higher. Lowering the cost of operations is critical but doing them in an environmentally friendly way is even more critical. It really is the best of both worlds.
I believe sustainability should be taking place across all aspects of cannabis. In California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control requires certified hauliers to remove any cannabis waste — like stems and miscellaneous biomass — in a locked drum or container. It’s fairly expensive and very wasteful. We want to be able to take our waste and turn it back into something useful, not just bury it in the ground because the BCC considers it a hazard. So, we’re in the processes of obtaining authorization from the local county government to be able to take our waste and send it to our nursery site. This zero-waste program essentially creates a circular economy, not to mention a healthier soil program for our own growing.
We work with a company who has a soils program, the founder used to be with the Rodale Institute. They are creating a compost program and implementing regenerative agriculture practices, which has multiple benefits: the crops produce more; the soils are healthier; the local climate is healthier, and those products are typically consumed in the local market and can fetch a higher price point.
Sustainable cannabis growing is all about reducing the negative impact on the environment. 3 Bros Grow demonstrates that sustainability in vertical agriculture can be achieved, that is profitable, and it is good for the planet and good for people.
How does the packaging that’s required for the sale of regulated products work into your sustainability model?
All 3 Bros Grow products are packaged using the most sustainable and environmentally conscious packaging available, like soy-based inks, recycled ocean-based plastics and bio-based plastic or hemp-based plastics. We’re talking to companies that are emerging that are using hemp fibers in this space.
I hate plastic. The amount of excess plastic and packaging used in the cannabis industry is a nightmare. The world’s starting to realize that plastic is going to kill us, and we’ve got to be able to find alternative packaging materials to be able to do it.
I think that as an industry, we need to insure everyone uses sustainable solutions. Right now, it is a little bit more expensive to use sustainable packaging. But in our opinion, it’s worth it to not pollute the planet and delay that cost into some future generation. Plus, I think we should be supporting our own industry to help it evolve — even if it costs a little bit more in the packaging up front for hemp fiber and plastic to come to market. From my perspective, it’s the right thing to do.
What are the benefits of sustainable growing techniques?
You create a healthier, cleaner and consistent product. You also lower or remove your carbon footprint. And you lower your costs of operation. All three of these are important from a business perspective. You always have to have the lowest cost of business operations possible, so you can have a margin and continue to grow, expand and do what you need to in the marketplace. But from an environmental perspective, you have to do what’s right up front and every day.
Can you tell me about your community programs, like the compassionate program 3 Bros Grow started during the pandemic?
We want to support the community that’s supported us. Any company can make money, but it is important to give to the community that supports us. We take a portion of our proceeds during a month and give that to a local nonprofit.
When COVID-19 came around, we decided to start a compassion program for people who were struggling. We reached out to a lot of the vendors we work with and we had an overwhelming response; they donated products to us, and we donated it to our less-fortunate customers. Not just cannabis products — we donated large amounts of food to the community, too. We did the same thing when the fires came; we reached out to a lot of our vendors and created a compassion program.
We also support minority-owned companies and local brands that are trying to get in the market. We’ll bring their product in, give them some shelf space, get them some attention through our social media platforms and, most importantly, try to give them additional margin on their products. We truly believe that it’s not just about growing our business – it’s about supporting the industry. It’s about making the industry better.
In your opinion, what’s the most important thing that needs to be addressed when talking about cannabis?
Educating people that cannabis is not a harmful thing – it’s really a helpful thing. I have friends who are veterans who treat themselves for PTSD with cannabis. I have friends who are senior citizens that treat themselves with cannabis for pain. I have friends who treat themselves for anxiety. I have friends that have weaned themselves off major opiates and other addictions by using cannabis and other cannabinoid products.
Cannabis is a crop you can grow in a really sustainable manner and deliver it into local markets where it creates local jobs. It helps people. It’s a healthy product. That Reefer Madness type of mentality has really been politically driven in the past and comes from corporations and the government — they want to keep this plant out of the people’s hands, unfortunately.
How do you think the cannabis industry as a whole can be better?
One thing the industry doesn’t do very effectively as a collective group is get together to push legislation that actually supports our industry. As a united industry, we should be reaching out to the political parties, to demand the legislation that we need that will allow us to continue to thrive and scale. There are still too many people who are focused on their own operations and aren’t spending time thinking about the big picture.
Cities, Counties and States want the sales tax revenues, but they don’t want to create the banking and infrastructure support that’s required for the industry to evolve. You can’t bleed tax money from the cannabis industry but also not have the legislation that supports it. It’s counterintuitive and counterproductive.
The cannabis industry pays a lot in tax, and at the same time think about the job creation that it brings to the community. It’s huge. Somewhere between 250-350,000 jobs have been created in the last few years. The only other industry that’s been on par with that has been the renewable energy industry. But unlike other verticals, we’re not supported, and we don’t have a united voice from the political perspective that will push the legislation that should be in place.
The amount of compliance we have to go through on the banking side means spending several thousand dollars a month in banking fees, cash pickup fees, and everything else. We’re fortunate that we actually have a bank account. Just recently, we’ve been able to start taking electronic payments. But in order to do that, we get charged a 3.5 percent transaction fee that we have to pass on to the consumer. In any other industry, you’d have a normal credit card system that would be half a percent, or one percent — maybe 50 cents. But there’s hardly anyone in electronic payments that wants to deal with you. We’re in the middle of expansion, so we’re talking to multiple different finance groups and capital groups. If this were any other industry, we could go out and get a regular credit line, pay a couple of percent and get a credit line of a couple of million dollars, no problem. In this industry, that doesn’t exist.
What’s next for 3 Bros Grow?
We’re continuing to expand. We’re doing some collaborations with some large brands. We just signed an agreement with Sherbinski to cultivate and manufacture some product for them using our environmental approach. We are working with a couple of their genetics and bringing them to the products to the market that shows the climate-positive impact. We’re also working with some other brands to make create new products that come into the market in a sustainable manner.
Finally, what are three things it takes to be a cannabis entrepreneur?
You have to be able to tolerate pain; you have to be able to jump through hoops, and you have to be compassionate and, in our opinion, serve the community.
If you’re in Santa Cruz, be sure to swing by the 3 Bros Grow dispensary.
Gav Lawson: How THTC Helped Make Hemp Hip
The Hemp Trading Company, aka THTC, has revolutionized eco-friendly fashion.
The London-based company brought hemp to the high street two decades ago with the launch of the brand’s sustainable clothing line comprised of garments made from hemp, organic cotton, and other sustainable materials.
THTC merges music, art, and activism. The clothing line features T-shirts designed by artists such as Mau Mau, whose urban artwork is known for its cultural commentary.
The company grew from a college-run business to the award-winning global brand it is today. Musicians and celebrities like Woody Harrelson, Redman, Method Man, members of UB40, Ed Sheeran and world Beatbox champion Alexinho are just a few of the personalities known to have supported THTC.
Some of the THTC’s earliest and most popular prints include: “George Bush & Son Family Butchers (Est. 1989)” – originally released in 2001 – and “Weapon of Choice,” a T-shirt worn by artists and activists for over 16 years.
Not all designs are politically explicit; other prints showcase collaborations — like “King David” and “Born Free” — between THTC and organizations including the World Land Trust, Born Free Foundation, and The Refugee Community Kitchen.
THTC’s founder, Gav Lawson, talks exclusively to us about building the award-winning eco-fashion line, and the company’s newest collections.
The Beginnings of Something Sustainable
Lawson founded the ethically driven streetwear brand alongside his brother, Drew, and friend Daniel Sodergren in 1999 while they attended universities in Hull and Bristol respectively. Together they formed the campus hemp awareness societies called Hempology, which became the basis for THTC.
“It took a few years for the brand to gain traction,” said Lawson, who is now the sole owner. “I didn’t know if the company would take off. We were so ahead of our time; ethical or organic clothing was not really a thing in the 90s.”
Almost four years ago, Lawson was joined by digital marketing expert Ashwin Bolar, who has vastly helped transform the company’s online strategy and boost their social media presence.
“Ashwin has been a great help to THTC,” said Lawson. “He is a very talented digital marketer and brings a lot to the table. Since he joined, our number of Facebook followers has more than doubled to almost 55,000. He also creates THTC’s graphics.”
THTC made its move into the mainstream when it became the first ethically minded clothing brand to be carried in Virgin Megastores.
“That was big for us,” Lawson said, “It had always been our aim to bring hemp to the high street and Richard Branson gave us that first opportunity.”
TK Maxx (the U.K. version of TJ Maxx) also started to carry THTC garments in more than 80 of its retail shops.
“THTC became one of their most popular t-shirt brands and we were the first hemp product to be stocked in their stores,” Lawson said.
“Ethical Consumer Magazine” ranks THTC as the U.K.’s most ethical independent menswear brand. British newspaper the Observer’s annual Ethical Awards also recognized the company as runner up for “Best Fashion Product” in 2004. In addition to its many accolades, Lawson earned a PEA award – the UK’s “biggest green awards” – for his achievements.
THTC recently paired up with Colorado-based Hoodlab Store, who is now the brand’s official U.S. distributor.
Finding THTC Brand Champions
When asked why THTC found success as an eco-fashion brand when others did not, Lawson credited it to years of networking, brand champions, and his small staff.
He spent more than a decade promoting his brand on the club scene, giving away T-shirts, and sharing his passion and vision for THTC. Through this experience, he said, he found champions of the brand, or people who wear THTC products “[…] because they are proud to.”
“People are often too busy in their own lives to worry about trying to save the world,” Lawson said. “They don’t know where to start, or that wearing one t-shirt made from organic hemp compared to conventionally grown cotton can save up to 2,500 liters of fresh water.”
THTC customers feel empowered just by wearing a T-shirt, a term he described as “armchair activism.”
“It becomes infectious,” Lawson said.
Making Sustainability Stylish
THTC revolutionized sustainable fashion by taking it from boring to trendy.
“Most environmentally friendly brands lead with their environmental credentials,” Lawson said. “We wanted THTC to be design-led, so we focused on creating strong designs and a cool brand that people would be proud to wear, whether they are environmentally minded or not.
Men in the U.K. are one of the hardest demographics to sell ethical fashion to, said Lawson; “generally speaking, they couldn’t give a damn about saving the planet.”
That’s why the company focuses on marketing itself as a fashion label before being a political one, Lawson explained. “We try to be the first ethical purchase for people who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily think about sustainability.”
Rising From the Ashes
One of the biggest struggles in the company’s history came shortly after the economic crisis in 2008. A few years later, in 2013, a fire occurred at THTC’s screen-printing facility that destroyed their screen-printing machine and 12 years worth of screens, costing them thousands. As a result, Lawson put on an event at South London-based venue, Electric Brixton called “Re-Grow.”
The event featured a very impressive line-up comprising of many of THTC’s supporting musicians who came along and performed for free, said Lawson.
“I was overwhelmed by the goodwill from the people,” he said.
Another challenge, and a point of pride for Lawson, is keeping THTC products affordable.
“I’ve always kept prices as low as I can — the cost of producing sustainable, truly ethical fashion is astronomical compared to cheap, throwaway cotton,” he said. While shops like Primark (equivalent to a Forever 21 in the U.S.) “pay peanuts for a t-shirt, we’re paying around £8 [more than $10],” Lawson explained. “We screen print all of our designs in London, usually with water-based and discharge printing processes.
The price of hemp, and other eco-friendly fabrics are already expensive enough, he said, “We try to make our products as affordable as possible.”
Transparency Through the Production Line
Lawson recently visited China, documenting his visit to the two facilities that produce their hemp clothing. THTC is currently editing a mini-documentary about the experience which is being produced by THTC’s video creator Spelt Productions.
The moment people hear about production in China, “They assume you’re working with sweatshops,” said Lawson. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The factories producing THTC garments are small, with between 12-20 staff. They are not exposed to harsh chemicals due to the nature of the products made, and a shared commitment to sustainability. They work from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and take regular holidays.
Lawson is quick to remind others that poor working environments occur everywhere. It is countries like China, he asserted, that need ethical production facilities more than anywhere.
“Plus,” he said, “hemp has been in Chinese culture for thousands of years. They’re way ahead of the game in terms of how the fabric is manufactured.”
For those reasons, he is proud of how and where THTC clothes are made.
Lawson is focused on transparency and sustainability throughout the entire production line. The company has produced ranges with upcycling businesses such as My Only One, and Good One, turning old garments into new styles.
Future THTC Fashions
THTC just released their spring collection this April, which includes new prints such as “System of a Mau,” “The Missing Peace” and “Get Back to Your Own Country,” as well as reprinting 16 past favorite designs such as “Get Rich or Try Sharing”, “Just A Ride” and “Plastic Fish.”
THTC is preparing to launch a line of THTC accessories that includes socks, underwear, wallets, belts, flexible ball caps, and more.
In the near future, Lawson also hopes to expand into the white label market, and create prints for dispensaries or other companies who are seeking sustainable merchandise.
Visit their website and enter CANNABIS-AFICIONADO-15 for a 15 percent discount on everything in the THTC range excluding charitable collaboration designs.